More than 3,000 new jobs could come to University Town Center if the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services chooses it to be the site for its new satellite office.
"It would be a huge development, literally and figuratively," said Chris Urban, property manager for Prince George's Metro Center, Inc., the firm responsible for developing University Town Center.
Health and Human Services is considering several alternative locations and has not set a date for the decision, according to Urban.
Jim Chandler, Hyattsville's community development manager, looks forward to the proposed government offices as a much-needed boost for the University Town Center's shops and restaurants.
"There are significant opportunities to put more bodies in the restaurants than exist now at University Town Center," he said.
More than a dozen restaurants have purchased retail space in the center in the last two years. Looming above them is the Regal Royale 14 with its 14 screens and gourmet concession stands.
May Zhes, a bartender at Old Dominion Brewhouse, said the location is difficult for business. Although the center is near the Metro station, it's a longer walk than the Metro-adjacent Mall at Prince Georges.
"From the street you can hardly see it," she said. "Even people in Prince George's Plaza can't always find us here. People see the ads, and they call up and say 'Where are you at?'"
Center retailers have been hoping for an additional boost from an upcoming "lifestyle concept shopping" Safeway store outfitted with wood floors and in-store SunTrust bank, Starbucks, pharmacy and Bergman's Dry Cleaners. This facility is in the center's development plan, but finalization has been chronically delayed, to the disappointment of retailers like Richard Pawlowski, owner of Qdoba.
"If the developer can build the supermarket, then we would hope to see our sales increase to what our original projections were," he said. "The center could draw a lot more traffic."
Chandler said that the center has been in discussions with several grocers, including Safeway, and is not likely to finalize an offer until a year or more from now.
In the meantime, retailers will draw all the business that they can from the growing offices and residential suites.
"It's going to work at the pace at which it works," Zito said. "It takes a little time."